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After reading the entire text of the "confidential memo" written by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., in 1971, and addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I was left with a sense of awe at the power of simple ideas presented in a clear and concise manner.

For his "confidential memorandum," "Attack on American Free Enterprise System," can be seen as the intellectual basis upon which much of the current U.S. Neo-Fascist Corporatocracy is based.

As reported on the Greenpeace Website,

Historian Kim Phillips-Fein describes how “many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.” In fact, Powell’s Memo is widely credited for having helped catalyze a new business activist movement, with numerous conservative family and corporate foundations (e.g. Coors, Olin, Bradley, Scaife, Koch and others) thereafter creating and sustaining powerful new voices to help push the corporate agenda, including the Business Roundtable (1972), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC - 1973), Heritage Foundation (1973), the Cato Institute (1977), the Manhattan Institute (1978), Citizens for a Sound Economy (1984 - now Americans for Prosperity), Accuracy in Academe (1985), and others.

Of course, among the Nouveau Fascist within the current American Corporatocracy, there are other influences, including the writings of Leo Strauss (the populace can't be trusted with self-rule), Ayn Rand (glorification and justification of unquenchable greed), philosophies like Social Darwinism, and Eugenics, and the cultural legacy of Puritanism and puritanical thought.

But this memo, although intellectually bankrupt (in it's dishonesty), is nevertheless very powerful since it not only helped in somehow validating a sense of "victim-hood" and of being under siege, in the minds of top corporate and business leaders, but it provided them with a how-to guide for the eventual corporatist takeover of the country.

It's a rare glimpse at the mindset of the tyrant, and it helps explains why no matter the suffering of the population, pushed down by an increasingly exploitative and brutal system, tyranny can't never be removed nicely, through reasoned argumentation, or appeals to decency and compassion.

For they (the unimaginably rich and powerful ruling elite) somehow see themselves as benefactors, as moral and ethical, and as indispensable, and they see those who would challenge their hegemony as dangerous, or radical, or threats to "freedom."

But yes, there are lessons to be learned from this memo, especially if one looks at its impact... And these lessons are actually based on immutable truisms:

Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Part of my "intellectual pursuit" is in trying to understand why there so many on the Left that reject that notion.

My take so far is because people on the Left focus "too much" on the effects of injustices, instead of on the most important issue of acquiring the power necessary to bring about a just society.

At that higher level of "power struggles" what counts is being able to impose your world view: A constitutional democracy based on the rule of law, and on the prevention of dangerous accumulation of wealth and power.

When that is your world view, and the other side's world view is based on the establishment of a Neo-fascist Corporatocracy, like we have now, the struggle is an existential struggle, and it necessitates a very calculative, careful, thoughtful approach that includes strategic thinking (short-, mid-, long-term), discipline, and coordinated action.

Yes, Justice's Powell memo is intellectually dishonest, but it nevertheless provides a how-to guide to acquiring power.  The problem here is that the wrong side got to read it (and implemented it's ideas) first.

Originally posted to Ray Pensador on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 09:12 PM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I Read the About Half Of the Memo (8+ / 0-)

    Especially the part where he describes the "attack" on the free enterprise system.  I was most struct by the fear.  This man found the hippies and the protests terrifying, and was determined to do something to check them.

    I remember a Doonesbury cartoon from way back, where they are discussing how they had thought they were failing, and becoming despondent.  Then, during the Watergate hearings they realized they had actually driven them to the brink of paranoia.

    This is that cartoon made real.

  •  Good On Ya. Often Referenced By Thom Hartmann. (8+ / 0-)

    Two responses.

    First one you've heard from me often, that most identified as "left" are actually "right." So that doesn't really leave us very many to focus on.

    The second response is the downright tragedy that was the Enlightenment. Most, maybe all, of its premises are incorrect. Its ideals, spot-on, but its premises and most of the rest of its world view, they're an asteroid falling on the Titanic.

    Once and only once in human history was justice ever remotely approached, during the half century of the New Deal-Great Society epoch in the US and its analogue (and superior) elsewhere in the developed world.

    The defining principle of that era is massive constraints on the power structure.

    I can't help but notice the internal inconsistency between our foundational concept of representative democracy, and the observational conclusion that the people must be totally occupied governing their governors.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 09:38:11 PM PST

  •  thnx - scary stuff, imho (5+ / 0-)

    here's more:

    Jeff Clements "co-founder and general counsel of Free Speech for People and a former assistant attorney general of Massachusetts"  wrote this piece posted on Alernet the other day

    The Real History of 'Corporate Personhood': Meet the Man to Blame for Corporations Having More Rights Than You

    The real history of today's excessive corporate power starts with a tobacco lawyer appointed to the Supreme Court.

    Faux News ruined my state

    by sc kitty on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 09:49:27 PM PST

  •  More about pro-corporate, big biz movement (3+ / 0-)

    A very well-placed executive from the world of finance told me back in the 1980s how CEOs got together to organize massive and permanent pushback/PR as a reaction to Ralph Nader and his followers bringing to light so much corporate wrong-doing.

    They just didn't phrase it that way. Instead, they put a happy face, positive spin on it.....and used a lot of PR techniques and psychology.

     Kim Phillips-Fein wrote an excellent book, by the way:

    "Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan"

    Google can help. For example:

    Harder to wade through but also extremely well-researched and shocking = the work of Prof. Stewart Ewen:

    Stuart Ewen

    Google search terms: "friendly giants" "silver chains" will get you to Google Books, PR!: a social history of spin By Stuart Ewen

    Book Review: Stuart Ewen's PR! A Social History of Spin:

    Stuart Ewen. PR! A Social History of Spin:

    More on same/similar:

    Covert PR Campaign against medicare, 'socialized medicine"

  •  Ya know, whenever I read something like (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ocular sinister, Ray Pensador
    For they (the unimaginably rich and powerful ruling elite) somehow see themselves as benefactors, as moral and ethical, and as indispensable, and they see those who would challenge their hegemony as dangerous, or radical, or threats to "freedom.

    I have to stop for a minute and remind myself that there really are people who think like that. It's not just a bogey man the left creates to push its agenda. There really is a man with Donald Trump's values. Jesusfuckingchrist on a biscuit.

    Great post.

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 10:53:08 PM PST

    •  David Rockefeller's autobiography ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mother Mags, Ray Pensador, alizard

      was quite a read. His revelations on the 'superiority' of the Elite and the whole nauseating thing were mind boggling. Goes back quite a ways, and it's still with us today. The 'Bilderberg' group isn't a myth, it's just the global social club get together for the elitists to share their 'superior' ideation with one another.

      I'm an Old Hippy from the Alan Grayson wing of the Democratic Party / OWS. . Occupy Sonora

      by KalHermit on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 07:32:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  in 1000 years, I wonder (3+ / 0-)

    which of the following documents:

    1. Das Kapital
    2. Mein Kampf
    3. The Lewis Powell Memo

    will be found by historians and archaeologists to have done the most damage to human civilization.

    I also wonder if these scholars will be human, or non-human intelligent beings studying the wreckage of yet another failed intelligent species.

    Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

    by alizard on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 01:43:18 AM PST

  •  Rather soon thereafter (3+ / 0-)

    and I can't quite remember if it was the June 30, 1974 or July 31, 1974 edition, Business Week took the broad outline and transformed it into an explicit game plan.  I found out about that BW edition by reading a Kevin Phillips book in the 80s, and went to a library periodical room and pulled it.  It was a remarkable public statement not only of the intent to impose corporate hegemony on the US, but a step by step, issue by issue description of what that hegemony would involve and how each element would need to be imposed.  I would imagine that looking back today the editors would be well justified in saying "Mission Accomplished!"

    If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. ~Malcolm X

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 03:46:25 AM PST

  •  Great post as always Ray! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    Is there some way we could investigate an anti-trust solution to break this out?
    The epiphany I had in college when studying media consolidation is that corporations don't have to be owned by the same person, but they could still operate cooperatively for mutual benefit in a monopolistic way. Notice how commercials on competing stations always run at the same time, coincidence? I think not.
    As an optician I have seen dynamic this in action by foreign owned corporations where the two largest retail chains and many well-known frame lines are owned by the same company. My current gig is for a Japanese owned lens company where, against their own interest (but for increased sales volume) tend to give preference to that company. Another foreign giant (our competition) owns 1/2 of the leading color changing lens technology company (used by the company I work for), plus was the first lens company to have a national advertising campaign and has now acquired the 2 best known (to me) polarized lens manufacturers. I wear polarized lenses exclusively, light sensitive, and the lenses I currently wear weren't then, but are now produced by them; I will have no choice for new lenses but to get their shit. grrr.
    There is simply no way to exist in the market without playing ball with those fuckers. I bet it's the same for most industries.

    "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies." - Moshe Dayan (on my tea bag). I'm not your enemy, but you may still talk to me. Keep those good ideas coming I always say...

    by ocular sinister on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 07:00:48 AM PST

  •  Where is the single leading "voice" we need? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, barkingcat

    If we cannot identify one resonant idea for resistance from the plethora handed us on a platter, we need to seriously ask why not?  We see the evil game plan being used effectively against us, civilization, and humanity.  Yet we refuse to use the tools handed us.  We concede faith-based principles by our weak silence (except for OWS & Alan Grayson & Bernie Sanders).  We concede the essence of the Constitution by our weak responses (except for OWS & Alan Grayson & Bernie Sanders).  Where is our own PR operation?  Where are the bright minds that can make effective, hilarious,  mincemeat of the crap lying arguments being put forth hourly to the public by Rush & Hannity?  How about someone of stature such as a Howard Dean once more step forth as a voice.  And how about the millions of the rest of us provide the $5-10/month to support whatever plans gain traction.

  •  I believe he was nominated for the Supreme Court (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    after writing this memo.

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